In April of this year, I left my job doing machine learning work at Scribd, to join a new startup building robotic toys to teach young kids how to program. We call ourselves Play-i (supposed to be a play on "AI", but unfortunately most people seem to miss the connection). While we had been very public about what the goal would be, we were very hush-hush about the actual product. In all honesty, partially it was because we changed it so many times. We probably went through four completely different complete product ideas before arriving at the one today. Then we worked many long nights to quickly get the prototypes done. And now our robots, Bo & Yana are finally public in the form of a crowdfunding campaign. You can SEE THE ROBOTS HERE
Our original idea was to actually create a robot where you can build the robot AND program it. But while testing with kids in our target age range, 5-8, we quickly figured out that we needed a fully-functional
robot. We will have our own language for kids to program the robots, in addition to being compatible with Scratch, Blockly, and Objective C. There will be an open developer's API as well, which you can gain early access to by pledging at the level of the developer's pack.
We tested Bo & Yana with kids as young as 2 and as old as 17. The younger kids definitely gravitated towards "Yana", the smaller robot, who can detect gestures you make with it. Older kids enjoy the mobility of "Bo", short for 'robot'. Both genders enjoyed playing with the robots. Each robot works as a standalone toy, but they also can detect each other through IR beacons, for more interactive play.
After much demand, we are adding an additional accessories pack to allow connections from Lego Technic and Mindstorm pieces along with other standard 10mm ball attachment toys.
We have a contract manufacturer lined up to create the robots. While we originally prototyped with Arduino, the boards in the final prototypes seen in the video are indeed custom boards that we plan to use in the mass-produced version. We think our estimated BOM is pretty close. But there's still a lot of work to do, particularly with finalizing the firmware and the software. Our campaign is looking pretty good and we've already met our goal, so we are definitely hiring if you are interested in joining the team.
Finally, please feel free to email me personally if you have any questions about the robots. I know that the website doesn't provide very good information, particularly for those who actually know something about robotics.
Thanks everyone for all your support.